Unlike many other snakes, garter and ribbon snakes are not constrictors, meaning they swallow their food as fast as they can, usually while it is still alive. In the wild, these snakes favor prey found in around water, such as minnows, frogs, salamanders, worms, and slugs. They will also eat small mammals from time to time.
In captivity, garter and ribbon snakes generally eat fish, especially goldfish, guppies, and minnows. Offering a mixture of different fish is the best way to make sure your garter or ribbon snake is getting the nutrition he needs. Frogs can occasionally be given to supplement a garter or ribbon snake’s diet. To feed, place several living fish in your snake’s water bowl and let him decide when to eat. Once he’s hungry, he will slide into the bowl and swing his head around until he gets a fish in his mouth. He will then swallow it whole.
Juvenile garter and ribbon snakes should be fed small, nutritious meals two or three times each week, while adults should only be fed once every five or six days.
For more information, read Quick & Easy Garter & Ribbon Snake Care (T.F.H. Publications, Inc.).